The constant “DTW lacks direct flights by airline ZZ to airport XYZ comments” has definitely become the running joke of A.net.
And the thing is, the two biggest issues with DTW is deal not with the lack of service on the airside, but with the lack of service on the ground side.
1- The lack of any practical public transportation to and from DTW to Downtown, (sorry but the bus doesn’t count, even if it is now “fast”). Look at the rest of the Midwest: CLE, STL, ORD, MDW, MSP all have rail transit between the airport and city center. Detroit is so far behind the times it is not even funny.
And don’t think for a second that the lack of transit doesn’t have an impact on conventions, business meetings, and other events that would draw more passengers from other cities into DTW. Believe it or not, adding a transit connection may actually bolster the number of passengers who O-D in DTW, and then maybe DTW could get a few more of the much talked about routes that are currently missing.
Without transit, visitors are forced to take an expensive taxi/ride share or rent a car, which leads me to problem 2:
2- The Rental Car situation at DTW is an equally bad joke. Most locals are unaware of it, because DTW locals typically don’t rent cars at DTW. But for others coming to the airport, they are greeted by a haphazard rental car setup that is Byzantine in design.
Each rental car agency has their own lot, and own shuttle, and two different terminals to pick up and drop off to. They are almost all uncovered surface lots, and the weather in Michigan isn’t the greatest for several months a year.
Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor renting a car. Upon arrival, you are usually greeted by a long wait for your rental car shuttle (especially if you arrive later at night or in off peak times). Your wait often involves standing on the curb for 20 minutes (sometimes longer) in subzero winter temperatures, or in 90 degree summer humidity. While doing so, you get to watch the Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, and every other agency’s shuttle drive by waiting for your own.
Finally, once on your shuttle, you are taken to a surface lot where you walk into an ugly shack to get your car. After getting your keys, you then have to find your car in a giant surface lot that is exposed to the weather elements, and if in the winter, your first encounter of your rental vehicle is brushing off all the snow that has accumulated. Welcome to DTW.
Now the obvious solution is a consolidated rental car in a parking ramp/garage... again a facility like you see at so many other airports. But again, not in DTW. Again, maybe if the ground transportation experience was improved at DTW, a few more visitors would chose to fly here, justifying more air service.